I get told every so often by readers that I don't always make it apparent in my recaps what the final score of the Mariners game was. I don't know why that matters. This isn't supposed to be a one-stop shop forcontent. If it were, I would stream Seattle Mariners games, and talk to Seattle Mariners players, and host Seattle Mariners statistics. This is supposed to be supplementary, and I know that you're all capable of using the Internet, because you're using the Internet right now, unless somebody printed this out for you on paper. If you're somebody who's reading this recap on paper, or if you're somebody with unusually restricted Internet access, the Mariners played the on Thursday afternoon, and five Rangers players ran all the way back to where they started, while just three Mariners players ran all the way back to where they started. The two teams tied in displacement, but the Rangers "won" according to the arbitrary rules of the sport.
I like to write a little more from an emotional and/or philosophical perspective because just writing about things that happened gets boring quick, for the writer and for the reader. As such, it should surprise none of you that I'm taking that approach today. The thing about a game like last night's is that it changes the way you think about subsequent games. When the Mariners fell behind last night 1-0, and then 3-0, we all figured, "okay, that's it, the Mariners are 3-4 now." When they entered the ninth behind by two, a loss was a foregone conclusion. The Mariners can't hit. You need to hit to score runs, unless you're facing Jonathan Broxton. Ergo, assumed loss.
Then the Mariners rallied - with hits, solid hits! - and it showed that the Mariners can hit, if only occasionally. And that alters the way you think about deficits. Suddenly deficits don't feel insurmountable anymore. The effect is temporary, of course, and it goes away if not sustained, but that was the kind of game that sears itself in your memory like somebody applying a hot brand to your memory. Or not like that since you probably wouldn't remember that. Again, the memory isn't permanent, but what memories are permanent?
The thing about a game like today's is that it helps to sustain the effect of a game like last night's. Once again, the Mariner bats looked lifeless for the first while, and the Rangers took the lead. The Rangers were up 1-0 after one, and 3-0 after five. But it didn't feel insurmountable. That was because of yesterday. And then the Mariners rallied a little bit. They scored a run in the sixth, and they scored a run in the seventh. They made it interesting, and then the Rangers pulled away, and then the Mariners made it moderately interesting again with a run in the ninth. The Mariners lost, and the Rangers probably never felt particularly threatened, but the Mariners showed what a coaching staff would refer to as "fight". There's "no quit" in these Mariners, as the last two games have shown. There's no quit in any baseball team, at least not this early in the season, but there's no quit in the Mariners.
Because the Mariners chipped away, the Wednesday effect isn't reduced by as much as it would've been had the Mariners, I don't know, been blanked, or held to a run. It's still temporary, and the Mariners will eventually need to start scoring consistent runs if they want to keep people from being frustrated again, but it's interesting. It's at least interesting to scientists. All you scientists reading the baseball blog are nodding your heads right now in agreement.
So who cares about the Wednesday effect? Let's go ahead and call it the Wednesday Effect because I am not a creative namer of things, like you scientists are. Who cares about the way that fans feel during games, given that the way that fans feel has zero influence on the outcome? Well, we care, because we're the fans, and we care about how we feel. And it makes the viewing experience more enjoyable. So many times the last two seasons, I tuned in and basically hated it for two or three hours. The Mariners would do nothing, the other team would do something, I'd know that the Mariners would continue to do nothing, and I'd wonder what I was doing with my life. Games like Wednesday's allow for hope, and hope is so critical. Games like Wednesday's allow for the Mariners to feel less hopeless, and when the Mariners don't feel hopeless, you don't feel so stupid for watching them try to play baseball.
It's all so short-lived. I don't know how long the Wednesday Effect will last, but we're not talking weeks upon weeks upon weeks. The Mariners will need to rally again, lest our canoes of emotion sink. I think a big key to fan satisfaction is a number of rallies that are somewhat regularly interspersed. But it lasted into today. I suspect it'll last into tomorrow, and maybe the weekend. To make it short and sound stupid, it makes things better. The Mariners lost three of four to the Rangers and will open at home at .500. But, the Mariners will open at home at .500, and did you see that comeback they had? This team could be something. What a comeback, I'll tell you.
This is a more pleasant start of the recap than you might expect after a relatively quiet 5-3 loss. But I'm in Portland and it's sunny outside, and I think that when it's sunny outside in Portland and you're still feeling negative you deserve to be thrown in jail. I don't want to go to jail, so, pleasant baseball recap.
Time for some bullet holes. These don't have to be bullet holes. These could be any holes. These could be hole-punched holes. These could be finger holes. These could be glory holes! These could be prairie-dog holes. Time for some holes. Here are the holes:
- If you're wondering what kind of baseball season it's been, Jason Vargas is the league co-leader in starts. I think that conveys a certain impression that isn't inaccurate. "How's the start of the baseball season been, in general?" "Kind of Vargasy." "Huh okay I'll check back in later." The other co-leader is Brandon McCarthy, which of course makes sense given the weird Japan schedule, but we've now seen Jason Vargas three times in eight games. We're seeing a lot of Jason Vargas. It's like we just started dating Jason Vargas.
So how was Jason Vargas in his first 2012 assignment that wasn't against the A's? You can probably guess if you didn't already know. He looked an awful lot like himself and was all-around okay. The sexy part of his line score includes one walk and six strikeouts. The less sexy part of his line score includes four runs. Put it all together and you get an unsexy result from an unsexy pitcher. Why are we dating Jason Vargas again? We must be rebounding from one cold bitch.
The big blow came in the bottom of the fifth, when Vargas faced Michael Young with two outs and a runner on. Behind 1-and-0, Vargas missed high with a fastball, and Young lifted a deep fly ball the other way. In most ballparks, it would've been a fly out, but the Rangers don't play in most ballparks - they play in one ballpark, and it's one ballpark where you can't afford to allow like any fly balls to right field. It just kept carrying and carrying until Ichiro ran out of room and the Rangers' lead ballooned from 1-0 to something three times as bad.
In the past, I've referred to home runs like these as jokes, and that isn't quite fair. That home run was no more of a joke than a fly out to the track in Safeco's left-center. I guess a home run like this could maybe "cheapen" the home run experience but that's kind of a pile of crap argument. What I'll say is that it is not a home run I hold against Jason Vargas to the degree that I hold certain other home runs against certain pitchers. Vargas missed his location badly, but he shouldn't have had to pay for it like this.
He did, though, and that's when the Rangers' lead started to feel comfortable. Then the Mariners came back, and then other things happened, and now we aren't talking about Jason Vargas anymore.
While we're here, you'll remember that at the end of last season, we talked about a potential velocity boost Vargas was getting after introducing a twist to his delivery. No sign of that yet in 2012. Looks like we might be stuck with Jason Vargas the way he always was. Which is Jason Vargas being a perfectly acceptable Major League starter.
- The Mariners' highlight, without question, was Kyle Seager's solo home run in the top of the seventh. Ahead 1-and-0, against a very left-handed Derek Holland, Seager turned on this breaking ball:
And hit it here:
I wouldn't even say it was that bad of a pitch. Like with Nelson Cruz's home run the other day, I think this was just better hitting. Seager got in front of an inside curve and absolutely blasted the living and deceased shit out of it.
The home run was given an estimated distance of 438 feet. I don't know if that's correct, but let's run with it. A 438-foot home run is not a legendary home run, or one of the longest home runs we'll see this season. But it's still a substantial home run, and not a home run I think we would've expected from Kyle Seager a year ago. He spent the offseason getting stronger, and we saw him mash a few long drives in March. That just carried over. I'm open to being wrong, but I think this is an improvement.
It's hasty to conclude based on the early evidence that Kyle Seager is a building block for the future. It's critical that we all give him more time to establish himself as whatever he is. But Seager does have that .328/.401/.474 minor-league batting line, and he's young, and when young guys put up those kinds of minor-league batting lines...
So many people talk about Alex Liddi, or Francisco Martinez, or Vinnie Catricala as a possible third baseman of the future. Kyle Seager's right there in front of us. He is, at the very least, not bad.
- Reading a promo coming back from commercial, Dave Sims said it's "never been more affordable" to take the family out to see the Mariners. The Kingdome would've muttered under its breath if we hadn't blown it up on TV. Take that, Kingdome! You're dead! And now we're going to carry on as if you never existed! We hate you, Kingdome! Stupid dumb ugly Kingdome!
- Giving a rest to Elvis Andrus, the Rangers started Alberto Gonzalez at shortstop. I wasn't familiar with Alberto Gonzalez, and figured he was some nondescript 24-year-old infielder the Rangers brought up from double-A. Turns out he's played in the Majors every year since 2007 and has batted more than 900 times. He'd never before played against the Mariners, which I'll choose as my excuse, but still, 379 games. Billy Koch played in 379 games. Tim Hudson has played in 378 games. Roy Halladay has played in 380 games. Alberto Gonzalez. Never heard of him.
The neat thing about Alberto Gonzalez starting was that it meant there was a hole in the Rangers' lineup. In the fifth inning, he singled.
Craig Gentry is really fast, and while I don't know if he's as fast as Peter Bourjos, that's not a fair benchmark. That's like saying "well sure the pronghorn is kind of fast but it's not as fast as a meteor." Gentry entered the game 19-for-19 on Major League stolen base attempts. In the fifth inning, he was thrown out when he arrived safely at second and then overslid. Craig Gentry was caught stealing for the first time because he was too fast.
- In the seventh inning, Miguel Olivo was called out on strikes. If you are an umpire, and Miguel Olivo doesn't swing at a pitch, and you call it a strike, you should probably be homeless and beaten.
Mike Adams came on to protect a 5-2 lead in the top of the ninth. Mike Adams is undeniably right-handed, but with two outs and a runner on second, he faced Miguel Olivo, and not the available John Jaso. It's not like Eric Wedge was opposed to pinch-hitting, either, since after Olivo, Wedge pinch-hit Michael Saunders for Casper Wells. I know that Olivo got a hit and drove in the run, but that isn't what's important. The process is what's important, and with two outs, what the Mariners needed to be focused on was extending the game. Who do you think was more likely to not make an out in that situation: the right-handed Miguel Olivo, or the left-handed John Jaso? Even accounting for Jaso being cold off the bench. That was bizarre. Olivo's only advantage over Jaso in that situation was his power, and Olivo wasn't the tying run. His power didn't matter.
It's not a huge deal, and the fact that Olivo got a hit means we won't hear an explanation. An explanation would probably be unsatisfying anyway. But Miguel Olivo is a dangerous toy. Miguel Olivo is the contents of a liquor cabinet, and Eric Wedge is the 15-year-old high school sophomore who lives in the house. The adults know how to handle the liquor responsibility. The teenager just wants to get completely fucked up.
- Erasmo Ramirez pitched in relief and was not his usual, spot-hitting self. It happens. I can say that because it happened, just today, to Erasmo Ramirez.
Back to Seattle tomorrow. But not back, because the Mariners haven't been there yet. To Seattle, tomorrow. It's the home opener, and Felix Hernandez will be there, and Mike Cameron will be there, and the A's will be there because they can't find any other friends to play with. Fine, whatever, come on, A's, we can hang out, just don't touch any of our stuff, your fingers are disgusting.